Streisand Effect: Activate

February 26th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

It appears that the estate of J.R.R Tolkien (primarily driven by his son Christopher, by most accounts) is continuing in its increasingly absurd attempts to silence those who dare to utter the name ‘Tolkien’. The latest evil copyright-flouting pirate to be brought to justice was the proprietor of a Zazzle store who offered a badge bearing the text “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion.”. If that’s the level of ‘infringement’ that they’re going after now, I’m half expecting a cease-and-desist for this post, to be honest – I’ll be sure to post it here if one turns up, it should make for some entertaining reading.

In the mean time, the internet is responding in the usual fashion – giving the ‘infringing’ work far greater publicity than it would ever have received otherwise. Alongside the inevitable blog coverage, there is now a new store on Zazzle offering a range of censored Tolkien merchandise – how long that one’s going to last is anyone’s guess, but with the preposterous claims that the estate has been spouting thus far it should at least make for some entertaining viewing.

Think of the Children. No, Wait, Not Like That…

February 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Ah, the rallying cry of those who hope to circumvent logic and plug directly into the brain’s ‘moral panic’ centre. It would be amusing if it weren’t so destructive. The latest victim is a comedian facing a potential 20 year child abuse sentence for editing a video to appear that he was singing a song with some sexual lyrics in front of a class of kids. The idiocy of classing a few ‘inappropriate’ lyrics as child abuse is compounded a thousand times over by the fact that the kids never even heard the words – it was spliced together in post production.

Now, I do think that the guy made a bad choice – he didn’t get informed permission from the parents for his use of the video, and they were understandably pissed off about that – but to pull him up on whatever overly broad charges might stick is an enormous abuse of the legal system and vastly devalues the convictions of those who have done genuine harm by classing them alongside a comedian who happened to make a poor judgement.

The Cover Tells You All You Need to Know

February 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Although (or perhaps, now that I think about it, because) I am rather particular about my appearance, I have never been a fan of ‘business attire’. For customer facing positions I can understand the draw of having a dress code – the employees are standing there on show in your exquisitely designed space all day, after all, so it stands to reason that you don’t want them messing up the look of the place – but it’s always struck me as very odd that it extends to offices. The BBC has an article (admittedly something of a fluff piece) discussing the issue; even as part of this less-than-groundbreaking journalism, though, the inanity and utter baselessness of the arguments used is rather grating.

The central theme seems to be variations on the well-worn aphorism:

If you look professional, you act professional.

Always stated as fact, yet never bolstered with evidence, it seems to be one of those pieces of ‘conventional wisdom’ which so often turn out to be at best unfounded and at worst downright misleading. The fact that the vast majority of arguments in favour of ‘office dress’ boil down to this is, as far as I’m concerned, roughly equivalent to basing one’s opinion on the fact that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.

There are a few other points made – one commentator says that jeans have become as much a ‘uniform’ as the suit, and that people are scared to branch out; reasonable and logically consistent, at least, but an idea which in no way implies the conclusion that the suit is somehow the superior option.

There are also a few points along the lines of:

If you needed a lawyer, went down to chambers to find one wearing shorts, a T-shirt with a logo and battered trainers, are you going to choose him?

And, in the ‘editors picks’ of the comment section:

Jeans are fine if you work on a ranch, flip flops are appropriate if you’re a lifeguard but if you work in an office you should dress accordingly.

Both of which show some quite impressively circular logic. I accept the reality that people are somewhat conditioned to respect what they perceive to be an authoritative style of dress, but the theory that ‘lawyers should wear suits because that is appropriate’ is based on the premise that ‘suits are appropriate because they are what lawyers wear’. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to turn up in court dressed like a stereotypical surfer – people’s preconceptions do matter in the real world – I’m just suggesting that attempting to make an argument that things should remain a certain way needs a more solid foundation than that things are that way.

The Week in Idiocy

February 11th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A veritable smorgasbord of moronic stories seem to have come to light this week, and I’m far too lazy to write individual posts of even the most mediocre quality:

  • Russia are, unsurprisingly, expelling foreign journalists who they happen to dislike. Although international denouncement is a perfectly reasonable reaction, I have to wonder whether the British government really has the right to comment when they too have a documented history of banning visitors based purely on their political opinions. Not to imply that I agree with anything I’ve heard said by Terry Jones, Geert Wilders, or Zakir Naik, nor to suggest that they are on the same level as a reporter for the Guardian, but the simple fact is that both countries are refusing to provide a platform for certain speech which they happen to find objectionable. Whatever happened to “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it”?
  • An American school is doing an outstanding job of reminding us why zero-tolerance is very unlikely to be workable in a world where issues are not conveniently and unequivocally divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I do see the theory behind the “no medical marijuana products on school grounds” rule – although I personally disagree with their logic, I understand why some parents and administrators would worry about the potential for abuse, which is much greater than for most other medications. The true stupidity, however, becomes apparent when the zero-tolerance rule is applied; logic and intent go out the window, and the letter of the law takes over. The end result is that a kid who has already moved schools in order to be able to get home quickly enough to take his seizure medication is no longer allowed to return to school after doing so because he is ‘in possession’ of the drug inside his body. Whichever way I twist it, I honestly cannot comprehend how the school feels this to be a decision which benefits anybody.
  • Apparently leaving a 14 year old to keep an eye on his 3 year old brother for half an hour is now worthy of an official police caution. How the police came to find out about this heinous crime occurring is not made apparent by the article. It does, however, raise the very reasonable question of how this issue would have been treated if it were the 14 year old’s own child rather than their sibling; not an everyday situation, of course, but one that makes clear the absurdity of the police involving themselves.
  • Japan has provided a fine example of how the idiotic superstitions of some can have an impact upon us all. Apparently the families of people who commit suicide are being charged large amounts to compensate landlords for the loss of resale value from the bad luck that the death bestows upon the building. I’m not even quite sure if I blame the landlords for this one – it might be considered somewhat callous, but if (and that’s a big ‘if’) the loss of property value is genuine, then I can understand why they want to be compensated, however stupid the reason – but even if it is the public in general who are at fault, the fact of the matter is that genuine economic value is being wiped out by the fear of evil spirits, and this is happening in one of the globe’s most technologically advanced societies. I’m left wondering firstly how people can really accept such utter absurdity in their day-to-day lives, and secondly why this can’t at least make for some nice cheap property in a city where I want to live?

The Sixth Amendment

February 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Julian Assange’s lawyer has suggested that allowing his extradition from Britain could be the first step on the road to Guantanamo Bay. I don’t know whether this is a realistic claim or not. That rather succinctly sums up the point I wanted to make here: by placing Guantanamo out of the reach of the law, the US government have made it unaccountable – that was precisely the decision that allowed them to run it as they have. What has become particularly apparent now is that accountability does bring some benefits, not least of which is trustworthiness. Even if the US really wouldn’t send Assange off in an orange jumpsuit, the nations considering his extradition have no way to know that; America can no longer be taken seriously in claiming that ‘our laws prevent us from doing that’.

Little comfort to those held without charge or trial, I admit, but perhaps a sign of some consequences, however minor, finally being felt.

Serious Abuse of Power? Hilarious!

February 3rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

You may have read recently that a British immigration officer decided to get rid of his wife by covertly placing her on a ‘no fly’ list while she was outside the country. It worries me greatly that this was possible (not to say that it particularly surprises me, however). It provides further proof that Jacqui Smith, who created the department in question, was one of the worst things to happen to British human rights in a very long time. It sickens me that the officer appears to have emerged from this without any kind of criminal proceedings.

For the moment, though, I will leave all of those issues to one side. What really, genuinely shocks me is the tone set by the news coverage; look at Reuters’ take on the issue:

If you thought breaking up with someone via text message was harsh, wait until you hear about this.

Or perhaps Time’s incisive opening:

Sometimes marriage gets a bad rap. But it’s another thing completely to prevent your wife from ever coming home. Avoidance issues, anyone?

Yes, I’m quoting selectively, but honestly those excerpts pretty much embody the attitude of the articles. No righteous indignation, no calls for justice, no questioning of how a single officer could exile an innocent woman for three years with no recourse nor even an indication of why she was not allowed home. Just a light chuckle from the press about the perils of marriage, and the whimsical lengths that these silly 1950s-stereotype men will go to in order to avoid their wives. This is the best we can get from an industry that makes its money by telling us that rapist-paedophile-communist-bankers are waiting around every corner to strike at our children?

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